“Blood on the Scales”
February 6th, 2009
For the second time this season, I found myself in a situation wherein being able to watch Battlestar Galactica wasn’t in the cards. I am not a fan of this particular development, as it is inherently frustrating, especially when the episode was actually spoiled for a couple of people I was with for the weekend. BSG’s friday night time slot seems great in theory sometimes, but when you actually have an event going on it’s kind of tough to find the time to slot it in.
And by the time I did sit down late Saturday night to watch “Blood on the Scales,” I have to say that I didn’t find it quite as exciting as some others did. Perhaps it was the scenario in which I watched it, but there is something about this episode that felt like it was the simplest of solutions. There wasn’t anything surprising in the episode, outside of a couple of loose ends that never really played a role in the episode. This isn’t to say that the episode lacked excitement, or that its darkest moments had no impact on me, but rather that for all the escalation and all the entertaining turnarounds it ended up exactly where we knew it would end up.
So this isn’t likely going to be incredibly lengthy, primarily because I wrote so much about “The Oath” that saying too much more here is probably going to get redundant.
My biggest problem with “Blood on the Scales” is also the scene that was perhaps the most shocking: as the Quorum asks Zarek to leave the room so that they can discuss the insane position the fleet finds itself in, Zarek departs and then informs a group of marines to shoot and kill them all. It’s an incredibly powerful scene, watching as Zarek walks down the corridor as the gunshots barrel behind him, but for me its shock value was precisely what takes an incredibly complex moral situation for Gaeta and turns it into a situation that is clearly out of his hands.
It’s not that I am surprised that Gaeta would balk at the murder of the Quorum, but rather that I wish he had something much less shocking to react to. To this point the mutiny has been morally ambiguous, but to have Zarek be so willing to murder the political structure of the colonies is too much of a red flag for Gaeta to ignore, and by the time he eventually more or less surrenders himself you’re kind of like “well, obviously.” The problem is that in my books we’ve known Gaeta all along. His Lady Macbeth-esque scratching of his leg has been ongoing all this time, and I don’t think that anyone who avoided being reactive and chose instead to view Felix as a conflicted person who believes in something he doesn’t understand could see him as being someone who needed a wakeup call in the form of a murdered political body to know that he and Zarek were on different pages.
As a result of this, it felt like there were parts of the episode that were inherently fascinating in and of themselves (Lampkin coming out of the woodwork to be assigned to assist Adama, Roslin’s desperate attempts to contact the fleet, Adama’s reaction to being told Tigh is dead, Roslin’s reaction to being told Adama is dead), but for all intents and purposes it felt like all of it was going to happen regardless and lead to that final moment where the coup is ended, Adama regains control, and they place Gaeta and Zarek in front of the firing squad.
I think the reason I found the episode so underwhelming compared to some of the concensus is that lack of surprise: last week managed to draw amazing action sequences and yet use them to build character and show us sides of people we haven’t seen for a while or sides that were new for this very complex situation. And yet here, it felt like the action did nothing of the sort: Roslin perhaps reached a new level of determination with here haunting “we are coming for all of you,” Baltar seems to have truly begun to analyze his own behaviour after falling in bed with the Six, but it seems like everyone else was just on the same path we saw them on before. It never felt like the episode took us anywhere that expand either the philosophical boundaries or the character development of the series.
Except for Gaeta. This episode ultimately boils down to that final scene with Gaeta and Baltar sitting in the break room, sipping their coffee and smoking their cigarettes. That speech is something I plan to revisit, Gaeta’s story of his life and his obsession with architecture. I think this arc has been extremely valuable for the show in that it has given Gaeta a greater purpose, placed him in a unique position of being so driven by his emotions that he ignored the physical sign of his mind’s disapproval, the itchiness of his leg, and kept moving. When he takes off the limb before heading out to the CiC after ordering Adama’s murder, it’s just getting worse. When he eventually is about to face the firing squad, though, he realizes that it has stopped, a realization that comes right before he dies.
It’s all extremely poetic, but the rest of the episode felt like it was never given that chance. There was never any real uncertainty that they wouldn’t be able to stop the mutiny, and part of the episode felt like the mid-season resolution to say the Eye of Jupiter storyline: simple, quick, and focused on letting everyone move on. However, this is reductive in the end, considering that the Quorum is dead, there isn’t a Vice-President, Gaeta and many others are gone, there are major questions of loyalty throughout the fleet, Baltar is newly engaged, etc. This isn’t some chance for the show to go back to normal, it’s just a shift that was so clearly defined last week that the aftermath is not surprising and when combined with my weird viewing conditions never felt all that exciting either.
Overall, it just felt like “Blood on the Scales” was about doling out justice, and yet we had seen the case so many times that we could have told you how it went down: while that doesn’t take away the great moments or the highly emotional content or the fascinating elevation of Felix Gaeta, it does kind of take the wind of out of this blog post.
- My one major disappointment, to be honest, is that they did so little with the Cylons they were holding hostage: it felt as if there was a lot of potential for them to be used as leverage with the Cylons more explicitly, and for Hera to play a role (did anyone else notice that with Caprica being the one holding Hera as they left the cell the Opera House is returning to the forefront?), but instead they were set free and nothing ever really came of it (except for what I’ll get to in a second). It felt like this was going to be a huge episode for them, so perhaps this explains my slight disappointment that they were so left behind.
- Of course, this doesn’t change the fact that Samuel T. Anders seems like he might soon be dead. Obviously, this is going to raise some serious questions about the Final Five (ie, Tigh will be watching very carefully to see how Anders handles death to see just what might have happened to Ellen), but here it seems weird that we didn’t see any sort of resolution: we left it on Starbuck getting Lampkin’s begrudging assistance to help her get Anders to sick bay. I liked seeing this side to Starbuck, but taking her out of the action to deal with Anders felt like a copout when she didn’t get to take part in retaking the ship.
- We also don’t know what it is, exactly, that Tyrol saw when he tore that piece out of the FTL drive in order to stop the ship from jumping away. It was interesting to see the innerworkings of the ship, but what was that giant hole: is the FTL drive screwed, resulting in them being sitting ducks for a Cavill attack? Or is that something that has Tyrol trapped in there and potentially in danger? It seemed like these moments were such teases, not really giving us a sense of what was happening because there were other things to deal with. Darnit, I want answers now!